Sleepless in Mondello III

Riding Mondello 24 (on 12 vintage bikes).

Part III: “What you aiming to do?”

After slipping into the van, I lit the gas under the beef stroganoff, peeled off my cycling gear, stuck on the pyjamas and sat back with my Strava to admire my extra miles…and there they weren’t.  This was probably one of the low-points of my cycle.  As things had been going so very nicely on the Bianchi, I decided to rack up a few more miles after midnight… but there they still weren’t. I couldn’t believe it, and I still don’t believe it. I somehow robbed myself of an extra 15 Strava miles.   Nonetheless I slept.

When I woke I was angry.  This called for the Woodelo.  Yes, my youngest bike by a country mile and a brace of decades is not vintage, but nonetheless its material is as old as anything else, it being made of ash.  I imagine the dust that makes up the atoms of the Spinergy Rev X wheels were once part of the carboniferous period too.  The bike soaked up the miles, and soon I had refound those lost fifteen miles somewhere before the dawning of the day.

I may even have met the dawning of the day on the Woodelo, it’s funny that I can’t remember.  I do remember trying to convince a fellow sole rider to keep going on the bike till dawn had broken.  She later told me she thought she had hallucinated.  I just looked away!

I looked even further away from my plan at this stage.  I returned to the Bianchi to keep on comforts good side, and I think I may have kept turning those wheels until the list said breakfast.  That was about 7am.  After even more sleep, I redressed from bag 4 of my cycling gear. After that I only had one bag left, and that said raingear.  No need, thanks very much but I’ll wear my OldVelos gear.

I returned onto the course on the Di Zecca, and I was a different person from before the snooze. I was on fire.  I zipped around the course, telling people to grab my wheel, even my friend Tony said, “Bren I can’t come around”.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever been happier on a bicycle. 

Still I wanted to honour my undertaking and took my leave of Tony for another bike, back to the Alan. I knew it would look good in the morning light.

Later, Tony told me that he had repaid my tow to our fellow competitor and clubmate Richie who had the poor luck of a blow-out.  I remembered my own puncture at 3am last year at the furthest distance from civilisation.  One could be disconsolate in such circumstances, and no better man than Tony to put in the effort and return Richie to 3rd place.

Riders everywhere were beginning to wake up and converse now. ‘How are you doing’  ‘You’re going alright’ ‘Great night’ ‘Have you slept.  And then the conversation I had heretofore shied away from. 

How ya going?” he asked

Grand, great really

What you aiming to do?

And for the first time I said it. “250

He nearly fell off his bike, incredulous. “250 kilometres?”

No miles, but I don’t know if I have enough done”.

Oh you speak miles too?  I’m from Northern Ireland and I’ve been dividing by 8 and multiplying by 5 all night!”

And so on we chatted till I decided it would be rude not to ask Joel Kerr the same question. “Yourself?

Well I’ve 440 done


No! Miles.”

Deciding I’d better get more impressive numbers, I eschewed any further bike changes and kept rolling around on my Alan to try and get to something respectable.  The day was warming up and so was the pit wall.  More and more woolly hatted heads looked over in expectation of seeing their rider and shouting encouragement to others. I not only began to take in my surroundings, but also to believe. To believe in the 250 miles.  I swung into the pits at about 9.30. 

“Bren! What do you need? Bike, transponder, coffee, Coke?”

“I need a calculator” I said, and promptlydivided 30 by 2.14 miles, which equals 14 laps.

After losing the 15 miles on my Strava, I was struggling to work out where I really stood,  maybe 220 miles? Reckoning over Mondello’s lap distance and the remaining time in my head, I now knew I needed to push on. I put the head down and stuck with the Alan

Out on the course again, I was laughing to myself about taking those long breaks and living by the lists.  If I had kept going without any or many breaks, I would have had made more miles, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed it so much. I thought about how people were taken by my belief in the old bikes and in some ways took to the old bikes.  I thought of the madness of 16 bikes changes, I thought of my fear of failure and my love of a challenge and  thought of achieving my longest cycle, ever. As Simone de Beavoiur said:

I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth – and truth rewarded me.”

With that I swung into the pits around 11.29am.  What happened next you may have read in the first instalment of the blog.  You can hear it in the video, you can hear the encouragement of my OldVelos editor. “ Go on Bren, you’ve got to go”.

Now, looking back, most of all I had thought that all that time spent alone or intermingling with other cyclists would help me resolve some of the uncertainties and quirks of my mind.  That I’d have time to think of things that pique my interest or untangle curious uncertainties, perhaps even work out certain philosophies (and how best to open a banana one handed).  But that was not to be, and it wasn’t necessary.  So, since the race I have been left with one simple thought: just where did the time go?

Brendan’s Bike Change Check List

To a lot of cyclists 24 hours riding vintage bikes might be considered an ordeal, to an ‘OldVelo’ it is an opportunity to enjoy the company of good friends.

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